EN has closely followed the rise of collegiate eventing in the U.S., we’re very excited to announce that the University of Alabama has launched an eventing team. Mackenzie Spaes, UA’s team vice president, wrote in to tell us all about the new program. She rode for nine years with Carrie Barrick before moving to Tuscaloosa to start her freshman year. Take it away, Mackenzie!
Growing up in Louisville, Ky., I was always surrounded by horses and knew that I wanted them to be a part of my life. What I loved most about the sport was the strong sense of family and community that defined eventing. Whether it was at horse shows or just at home, I always felt a bond with my fellow eventers. Everyone looked out for one another. As I packed up to leave my home of 18 years for college, I just knew I had to find this community in Alabama.
Collegiate Eventing is not a well known organized sport when it comes from the perspective of the university. I struggled with picking a college because I knew I was going to have to stay in the saddle. There was absolutely no question of attending school and not riding. I know any eventer out there will agree with me when I say once you pick up the reins you never really let go.
Something about Tuscaloosa captured my heart, and I knew this was where I belonged for the next four years. The only thing that Alabama did not have to offer to me was eventing. If I learned anything from Carrie, it was that if I set my mind to something, I could achieve it. I knew I could always come to her with some outrageous goal and she would say, “You want it, go get it.” I took this advice the minute I stepped on campus. I knew I wanted collegiate eventing to become a recognized sport at Alabama.
I had absolutely know idea where to start. I was an out-of-state student in a brand new city who was trying to get settled into college. Where in the world was I going to find time to start an event team? Luckily, I did not have to look very hard. Lizzie Walters, a junior at UA, contacted me one night, and to say I was excited was an understatement. I scared my roommate have to death when I jumped out of bed screaming that I found fellow eventers, and I could not wait to be reunited with my horse family.
Lizzie, who is now our team’s president, had almost everything organized. She had contacted the University of Georgia’s event team, which thankfully gave us a ton of information and support; we are very thankful for their help. I finally felt like I found my calling. Lizzie was ready to start this team, and I was right behind her. Over the next week, both of us blew up social media and tried to find fellow eventers throughout campus who were ready to jump on board.
Anyone who has owned a horse knows that all you do on Facebook is post adorable pictures of your horse. It’s just inevitable that the only pictures all over your page are selfies of you and your horse or your competition photos. That made it easy to scout out our potential new members. Everything seemed to be coming together. I tried to help Lizzie as much as I could scheduling meetings; meeting with members; and, of course, marketing our idea everywhere.
I’m proud to say that we have almost 20 members for our upcoming team, and this is such an accomplishment. I could not even imagine this happening without the hard work of our board members and our team members. And this is just the beginning. I have to say our biggest inspiration is the event team at UGA. They have done amazing things with their program, and I hope one day that UA will be on the same level as them.
The program UGA has created is outstanding, and they have set a standard for us. I know with the dedication of Lizzie, myself and the rest of the UA event team that we can achieve the same recognition as UGA. This is just the start for UA Eventing, and I promise you that we are ready to get the ball rolling. We hope to compete as a team for the first time at FENCE Horse Trials in the Collegiate Series. We plan to attend Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trials in October just to market ourselves and try to meet people.
As eventers, we get things done. Always. This saying has been close to my heart ever since I left that start box for the first time. This is my next conquest. Welcome to UA Eventing. And, of course, Roll Tide! If you have any questions or want to get involved in the new UA Event Team, contact Lizzie Walters, president, at [email protected] or Mackenzie Spaes, vice president, at [email protected].